Aloneness – Loneliness – Is there a Difference?

by Sheila Finkelstein on January 3, 2010

Walking into 2010

Ponderings – Loneliness or Alone on New Year’s Eve 

Alone – Lonely – Is there a difference?

Being alone in a crowd.
People dance,
They jump for joy. 

Where am I?
Off in the distance,
on the sidelines

What holds me back, has me not want to participate?

All the “rules” I impose on myself.

What rules are there about dancing?  What holds me back?

Making a “fool” of myself?  What is a fool?

and then there was “the night”…

Alone on New Year’s Eve, as 2010 rolled in.  I was actually quite content, comfortable in my skin and my place in life right now.  The past two New Year’s Eves without Sam were hard.  I was with one son, daughter-in-law, two grandchildren and their assorted guests both years and felt lonelier than being alone on 12/31/09.  The prior two years I recall so strongly feeling “Everyone has someone” and “I am alone”

If I were in the massive crowd at Disney, I suspect my feelings would have been the same.

I had an interesting walk from the party back to my room.  I was taking photos and a family came along.  The wife stayed to talk.  Her name is Heila, mine- Sheila without the “S”.  Someone on a call the next morning, in a group I was in, spoke of walking in nature looking for omens.  Was “Heila’ an omen for me​?…

What are the “s”s I could be dropping in my life?
S – sh*t – the clutter I surround myself with… not quite… and the “baggage” I carry
S – sorry feelings
S – “shoulds” – definitely!

Consider replacing them with “Shalls”.

What to keep?– my Soul, my Sense of worth,  my “Self”  The Self who Shines.

Maybe the omen wasn’t so much about dropping the “S”…. rather acknowledging and honoring it.  Who would I be without myself?

So back to loneliness – aloneness – Find the beauty in it.  Acknowledge it.  Let it be and note that there are multi-dimensions.

Remember when the “shoulds” are removed… the concern with other’s judgments…. really our own chatter and assumptions… all that remains is the beauty of myself/ourselves.

I am the one with whom I live…. how great it and my life are when I honor me and am totally and completely satisfied with that.

“The Story” leading up to the above writing:

My two sons and their wives gave me the 70th birthday gift of both families – including 1 granddaughter and three grandsons – being together between Christmas Eve and January 2. Seven of those days were spent in Orlando, Fl, sometimes all together, some days splitting up.  The plan was for us all to be together on 12/31 celebrating the entry of 2010.  In order not to be closed out from Magic Kingdom, the decision was made to leave for Disney, 20 minutes from where we were staying, at 6:30 AM.  I woke up at 4:00 AM and after thinking about it decided to stay back. The thought of 18 hours,  14 of them at least, on my feet standing on lines was too much.

I actually had a great day, rested, walked, stopped in on a party the resort was having.  On the way back, while taking boardwalk night photos, I got into a stimulating conversation with a passerby, on common interests – woman whose name was similar to mine.

Back in my room, I watched the “Ball Drop” on TV as 2010, a new decade, became reality.  I hugged myself lightly, remembering the 47 years my husband I embraced and kissed as the New Year unfolded. And then I recalled the “aloneness” and missing of the past 2 New Year’s Eves, celebrated at my son’s home.

Though surrounded and supported I felt “left out”.  As 2008 and 2009 entered, I felt lonely/alone and something/someone was missing.  And, I suspect my feelings would have been the same, compounded, in the crowd at Magic Kingdom this year.

Instead, I felt full and satisfied, though still missing Sam.

And then the next day, periodically I found myself feeling sad and teary-eyed as I thought of, spoke of,   being “alone” on New Year’s Eve.

“ ‘Everyone celebrates’. New Year’s Eve is “supposed” to be ‘party time’ and you were left out.’” I suspect that underneath it all were the thoughts, “What will they think of me?” “Something is wrong with her,” and more….

I thus decided to write down the thoughts… those empowering ones I had during the day and night… all the while feeling content, even at the party.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie Jordan Scott January 7, 2010 at 12:25 am

Your words are beautiful, Sheila. I am glad you chose to stay back so this moment could be explored so fully.

Happy New Year.


Sheila Finkelstein January 7, 2010 at 12:54 am

Thanks so much, Julie. Your words and acknowledgment mean a lot. As always, when I write so authentically I honor you for having set the tone and being such a great mentor.


Heila Martin-Person January 25, 2010 at 11:43 am

Hello Sheila –
What beautiful reflection and an exploration of your feelings. I am glad to be a part of it. Our meeting has been on my mind and I have subconsciously responded to the inspiration that you gifted me that night. It seems we are walking on a common path of a new existence in an old world, pondering our footing and redefining a sense of ourselves. It gives me a feeling of peace that our footsteps led us to meeting on the bridge that night – minutes before closing on the last day of the year. Thank you for ending my year with comfort and beginning this new year with enthusiasm. I look forward to getting to know a new friend.

Sincerely, HEILA


Sheila Finkelstein January 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

What a beautiful and acknowledging, empowering response for me. Thank you so much, Heila.


SYLVIA January 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Very interesting, Sheila. The way I see it, being alone is good for the soul. Loneliness is being uncomfortable with oneself. On the other spectrum, I remember watching a Mexican soap opera many, many years ago and the mother of the “airline stewardess” in the “novela” told her daughter that there is no worst loneliness than in the company of another. It seems she was miserable in her relationship.

I identified with you and your feelings.

Happy New Year!


Sheila Finkelstein January 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Thanks for the acknowledgment , wishes and the food for thought, Sylvia. Interesting “Loneliness … being uncomfortable with oneself.” Now that I think of it, I probably HAVE felt lonelier in a crowd and sometimes with another, than with myself. I am blessed that in my 47-year marriage with Sam, before he died, I don’t recall ever having felt lonely with him. We might have had differences at times but we always communicated and worked it through. I don’t recall one night where we slept in different beds/rooms because one or the other was angry. And thanks for those added precious memories. Happy New Year to you also.


Judith January 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Beautiful Sheila. This year I was determined to bring in the New Year with people doing what I love most – “dancing.” Club was filled to the brim but I left before the midnight hour and was home relishing the peace as I brought in the New Year by myself. The loneliness only surfaces when I dwell on those who’ve transitioned. When this happens, I smile, say “miss you” and carry on enjoying my solitude. For me, there is a difference between loneliness and solitude.


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